June 14, 2019
“Just bearing witness is important.”
Jackie Zammuto leads the programmatic work in the United States of WITNESS, an organization that makes it possible for anyone, anywhere to use video and technology to protect and defend human rights. We discuss how to use video more strategically and effectively for change, and how videos bring a human perspective to big complex challenges.
See it, film it, change it
Video documentation of injustice and systemic abuse can be a powerful tool for holding offenders accountable. The key is to present and disseminate the video effectively and strategically so that it is seen by the people who are moved to effect change. When the footage of an incident captures enough detail, it can be used as evidence in a court of law and positively affect the outcome of the trial.
Think before sharing
After recording human rights abuse, take the time to make sure you are not putting yourself, the subjects of the video, or anyone else in danger by releasing it. Rushing to post the video can weaken its impact because the perpetrators may have a chance to influence the narrative around the event. Careful and thorough planning can be the difference between a video that becomes a catalyst for change, and one that is easily dismissed or discredited.
We need to be accountable
Video alone is not sufficient to bring about social justice. We need to be accountable ourselves for how we conduct our daily lives. When we are not directly affected by police abuse, it’s easy to turn a blind eye, which in turn upholds systemic abuse. A much broader understanding of human rights issues is the starting point for a deep commitment to making change and for building bridges with the communities that are most affected.
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Jackie Zammuto is the U.S. Program Manager at WITNESS, where she focuses on the use of video for advocacy and evidentiary purposes. In 2018 she launched Profiling the Police, a collaboration with a Brooklyn-based community to explore new methods of using video to expose abuses by the NYPD. She has also worked in the production of materials like the Video as Evidence Field Guide and Forced Evictions Advocacy Toolkit.